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D'varim/Deuteronomy 15:5 For the L-rd has chosen [the Levitical priest] from all your tribes to stand, to minister in the name of the L-rd
The verb - here the Qal affix 3ms form of the root, meaning to choose, elect or select - is one of a small group of verbs1 that take a preposition to denote their object. In this case, the object is the previous word - - "in him", extended in our translation above to point to the antecedent, the Levitical priest from verse 3. The preposition tells us thatHaShem's choice is placed 'in' or perhaps 'on' the priest and has an actively participating or anointing quality rather than just a clinically objective appointment. Something more than a job title is involved here; something of the L-rd rests on or is present within the priest as he serves.
The text indicates that the priest stands to minister in HaShem's name. Jeffrey Tigay confirms this: "that is, to stand in attendance on the L-rd and minister to Him (by offering sacrifices) and to pronounce blessings in His name." TheSeptuagint explicitly states that "For the L-rd has chosen him out of all your tribes, to stand before the L-rd your G-d to minster and to bless in His name" (NETS), while the Temple Scroll reads, "for I have chosen them from all your tribes to attend on Me and minister and bless My name" (11QTemple 60:112). Hirsch adds that "only standing, in the position of awaiting the orders of a superior and carrying them out, does he bear the character of having been chosen for service. Only in a standing position is the idea expressed that all that he is doing is being done by command of G-d." Connecting "standing" and "blessing", the Sages rule that the priest must stand to pronounce the Aharonic benediction: "'Thus shall you bless the people of Israel' (B'Midbar 6:23, JPS) - i.e., standing. You say that it means standing; but perhaps that is not so and [the benediction may be pronounced] even sitting! It is stated here, 'Thus shall you bless the people of Israel' (ibid.), and elsewhere it is stated: 'these shall stand ... to bless the people' (D'varim 27:12, NASB) - as here it was standing so in the former passage it was standing. Rabbi Nathan says: [This deduction] is unnecessary; behold it states: 'to stand in attendance upon the L-RD, and to bless in His name' (10:8, JPS) - as [the priest] ministers standing so he blesses standing. Whence is it that the ministering itself [was performed standing]? Because it is written: 'to stand and minister' (18:5, ESV)."
Commenting on the phrase "to stand and minister", theSforno says that "It is therefore fitting that you give him bread and clothing so that he be able to stand to minister." If he has no proper clothing or does not have enough food for himself and his family, then the priest will - in extremis - not be able to stand and even at a lower level, not be prepared to stand and serve. He will need to attend to his physical needs. This was the situation discovered by Nehemiah when he returned to Judea after some years back in Babylon: "I also found out that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them, so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled each to his field" (Nehemiah 13:10, ESV). He immediately set this in hand and organised the gathering of the tithes into the Temple storehouses so that the Levites would be able to serve. This is also the context in which the prophet spoke: "Will anyone rob G-d? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, "How are we robbing you?" In your tithes and offerings! You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me-- the whole nation of you! Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the L-RD of Hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing" (Malachi 3:8-10, NRSV). By not bringing in the tithes, the people were robbing G-d in two ways: directly, because the tithes belonged to Him, and indirectly because the dearth of tithes meant that the priests and Levites could not minister to G-d; their absence in turn meant that the people were not blessed and the relationship between G-d and the people broke down.
Rav Sha'ul speaks to the same issue when he explains to Timothy, "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, 'You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,' and, 'The labourer deserves his wages'" (1 Timothy 5:17-18, ESV). It is important that our teachers and those who provide pastoral care, those who work in the gospel and those who encourage and build up the body of Messiah, should be covered for their living expenses. Of course, people may volunteer and serve without payment, but only so long as they are not at a disadvantage or suffering financial hardship. It is important and should be considered a point of honour within any congregation or learning group, that full-time or significant part-time workers should not be taken advantage of; even occasional teachers should be blessed with occasional gifts. It is a two-way street and although teachers, pastors and others do not set out to teach and pastor in order to earn money, from wherever you receive teaching, oversight and pastoral care, you should expect to offer a financial blessing.
Just who, then, is called to serve G-d? Who has He chosen? Certainly, Israel is G-d's ancient people and His covenant with Israel is "Thus said the L-RD, who established the sun for light by day, the laws of moon and stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea into roaring waves, whose name is L-RD of Hosts: If these laws should ever be annulled by Me - declares the L-RD - Only then would the offspring of Israel cease to be a nation before Me for all time" (Jeremiah 31:35-36, JPS). But G-d's choice and calling is wider than Israel. In the days of the prophets, G-d said: "As for the foreigners who attach themselves to the L-RD, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the L-RD, to be His servants - all who keep the sabbath and do not profane it, and who hold fast to My covenant - I will bring them to My sacred mount and let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices shall be welcome on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples" (Isaiah 56:6-7, JPS). Yeshua spoke of those who He would call: "Also I have other sheep which are not from this pen; I need to bring them, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock, one shepherd" (John 10:16, CJB), while John's vision saw "a huge crowd, too large for anyone to count, from every nation, tribe, people and language" (Revelation 7:9, CJB); John also reports seeing "another angel flying in mid-heaven with everlasting Good News to proclaim to those living on the earth- to every nation, tribe, language and people" (14:6, CJB) - the gospel, the news of G-d's choice, being sent out to all the peoples.
In the same way, just as G-d's choice rested in or on a person, with an active participation or anointing by G-d, believers from the nations - without favour or discrimination - have the Spirit of Messiah dwelling in them. Just as the priest had an air of authority about him as he ministered before G-d and carried out the functions of sacrificing, making atonement, waving/heaving and pouring, that was the intangible sign of G-d's choice in him, so we have an often also intangible - although sometimes very palpable - presence of the Ruach Elohim empowering and enabling us as we pray for, counsel, minister to, teach and bless the people with whom we come into contact. This is G-d at work in our age!
Taking one of the more over-quoted or even mis-quoted verses in the Bible, we find Rav Sha'ul explaining that "Furthermore, we know that G-d causes everything to work together for the good of those who love G-d and are called in accordance with His purpose; because those whom He knew in advance, He also determined in advance would be conformed to the pattern of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers; and those whom He thus determined in advance, He also called; and those whom He called, He also caused to be considered righteous; and those whom He caused to be considered righteous He also glorified!" (Romans 8:28-30, CJB). This isn't just a matter of G-d choosing someone, knowing them in advance. G-d's process for that person starts with knowing them, proceeds to calling them, then justifying, then sanctifying, then glorifying! Everything, in fact, that is necessary for them to become conformed to the pattern or image of Yeshua. Just as we were created in the image of G-d (B'resheet 1:26-27), so when we are ransomed by G-d, He sets about restoring us to the image of His Son! Other people see that image being restored in us and recognise the hand and presence of G-d even if they don't know exactly what it is!
1. - Another, for example is the verb , to rebuke or reprove
2. - Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Allen Lane 1997, 0-7139-9131-3, page 215
Further Study: Isaiah 40:3-5; Acts 7:54-56; 2 Corinthians 4:5-7
Are you displaying G-d's choice in your life? For believers in Yeshua, it
isn't an option, it is a requirement, so why not speak to the Designer
today to see what He can do to use you as a showcase?
© Jonathan Allen, 2013
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© Jonathan Allen, 2013
Your turn - what do you think of the ideas in this drash ?Like most print and online magazines, we reserve the right to edit or publish only those comments we feel are edifying in tone and content.